« ZurückWeiter »
tened over to Paris, accused Mr. Deane of interfering in his affairs, and endeavoured to stir up a contention between him and Beaumarchais. Failing in this attempt, he returned to London, vexed at his disappointment and angry with Mr. Deane. Such was the disposition of Mr. Lee towards his associates, when the commissioners met in Paris. For seven or eight months there was an apparent harmony, for Mr. Lee was absent the most of the time in Spain and Germany, and the business was transacted by Franklin and Deane. But no sooner had he again joined his colleagues, than his suspicious temper and aspiring ambition raised up new troubles, and he began to foment discords both in Europe and America, which ultimately threatened alarming consequences to the foreign affairs of the United States. He was dissatisfied with all that his colleagues had done, found fault with their contracts, and more than insinuated that they had been heedlessly extravagant, partial to friends, and indulgent to themselves, in the expenditure of public money. This was not the worst. His letters to members of Congress teemed with charges and insinuations, which, although they were not sustained by any positive evidence, could not fail to produce impressions as erroneous, as they were unjust to those, whom he chose to consider his enemies, and whom he believed to stand in his way. As early as October, 1777, his designs were unfolded in letters to his brothers, and to Samuel Adams, who were then members of Congress. He represents the American affairs in France to be in the utmost disorder and confusion, by the negligence and faithlessness of his associate commissioners, who would pay no regard to his counsels and admonitions, and whom it was impossible for him to control; and he V O L. I. 57 L L *
then begs his friends to remember, that, if there should be a question in Congress about his destination, he should “prefer being at the court of France,” for he had discovered that court to be “the great wheel,” by which all the others were moved. He recommended that Dr. Franklin should be sent to Vienna, and Mr. Deane to Holland. “In that case,” said he, “I should have it in my power to call those to an account, through whose hands I know the public money has passed, and which will either never be accounted for, or misaccounted for, by connivance between those, who are to share in the public plunder. If this scheme can be executed, it will disconcert all the plans at one stroke, without an appearance of intention, and save both the public and me.” These hints and insinuations require no comment. He continued the same manoeuvres for several months. At one time he intimated, that Dr. Franklin had sent out a public vessel on a “cruising job,” in the profits of which he was to share; and, at another, that he and the American banker in Paris, were in a league to defraud the public, and to put money into their own pockets. It is needless to say, that there was not one word of truth in these charges, nor any grounds for them, except in Mr. Lee's heated passions, distempered imagination, and ambitious hopes. He did not succeed in his schemes, but he was not the less pertinacious in pursuing them. His letters produced a mischievous influence, fanning the flame of party, and exciting suspicions of almost every public agent abroad, whom he did not regard as subservient to his views. It is scarcely too much to say, that the divisions and feuds, which reigned for a long time in Congress, with respect to the foreign affairs of the United States, are to be ascribed more to this malign influence, than to all other causes. * Another individual, who placed himself among the foremost of Dr. Franklin's enemies, was Mr. Ralph Izard. He imbibed his prejudices in the first instance from Mr. Lee. He resided nearly two years in Paris as commissioner from the United States to the court of Tuscany; but, having no direct intercourse with that court, and no encouragement that he would be received there, it was not in his power to render any public service, and he was at length recalled. There were two causes of his enmity to Franklin. Whilst the treaties were negotiating with France, he conceived that he ought to be consulted, in virtue of his commission to another court; he complained of being overlooked, and demanded an explanation. Not recognising his authority to make such a demand, Dr. Franklin was tardy in answering it; and Mr. Izard chose to look upon this remissness as a slight, and to assume it as the ground of a quarrel. On this point it is enough to say, that he was not in the commission for treating with France, and could not, with the least propriety, claim to be consulted in the negotiation. Again, after Dr. Franklin became minister plenipotentiary, the drafts for public money expended in Europe passed through his hands. He was to pay the salaries of the American commissioners at other courts. He paid to Mr. Izard about twelve thousand dollars, and, there being no prospect of his going to the court of Tuscany, he declined accepting further drafts, till he should receive such instructions from Congress as would meet the case. Mr. Izard's pride was wounded by this refusal. He neither suppressed nor concealed his resentment; and he never practised any reserve in avowing his settled hostility to Dr. Franklin. * The imputations of these gentlemen, and of some others with whom they were allied in opinions and sympathy, reiterated in letters to members of Congress, would necessarily produce a strong impression, especially as Dr. Franklin took no pains whatever to vindicate himself, or to counteract the arts of his enemies. He was not ignorant of their proceedings. The substance of their letters, which the writers seemed not to desire should be kept secret, was communicated to him by his friends.f Relying on his character, and conscious of the rectitude of his course, he allowed them to waste their strength in using their own weapons, and never condescended to repel their charges or explain his conduct. This apparent apathy on his part contributed to give countenance to the suspicions, which had been infused into the minds of many, by the persevering industry of his adversaries. At one time those suspicions had gained so much ascendancy, that his recall was proposed in Congress. There were thirty-five members present, eight of whom voted for his recall, and twenty-seven against it. Some of the latter were probably not his friends, but yielded to the motives of a patriotic policy, rather than to the impulse of personal feeling. That he was the best man to fill a public station abroad, no one could doubt; that he should be sacrificed to gratify the spleen of disappointed ambition and offended pride, few could reconcile to their sense of justice, or to their regard for the true interests of their country. It is interesting to see in what manner he speaks of his enemies, and of the artifices they employed to injure him. In writing to the Committee of Foreign Affairs, eighteen months after Mr. Lee and Mr. Izard began their opposition, he says; “Congress have wisely enjoined the ministers in Europe to agree with one another. I had always resolved to have no quarrel, and have, therefore, made it a constant rule to answer no angry, affronting, or abusive letters, of which I have received many, and long ones, from Mr. Lee and Mr. Izard, who, I understand, and see indeed by the papers, have been writing liberally, or rather illiberally, against me, to prevent, as one of them says here, any impressions my writings against them might occasion to their prejudice; but I have never before mentioned them in any of my letters.” To his sonin-law, who had informed him of the efforts used against him by certain persons, he replies, that he is “very easy” about these efforts, and adds; “I trust in the justice of Congress, that they will listen to no accusations against me, that I have not first been acquainted with, and had an opportunity of answering. I know those gentlemen have plenty of ill will to me, though I have never done to either of them the smallest injury, or given the least just cause of offence. But my too great reputation, and the general good will this people have for me, and the respect
* For additional facts in proof of what is here said of Mr. Lee, and of his mode of attacking Dr. Franklin, the reader is referred to Vol. VIII. pp. 57. 257, 444.
* His daughter said, in a letter to him, after referring to some of these particulars; “Your friends thought it best you should know what is doing on this side of the water, what wicked things pride and ambition make people do; but I hope these envious men will be disappointed in every scheme of theirs to lessen your character, or to separate you from those you love. Your knowing their intentions in time may be a means of disappointing them in their plan.”— Philadelphia, October 22d, 1778.
# See Vol. VIII. 250, 308, 388. The whole burden of Mr. Izard's complaints is laid open in his letters to Congress. – Diplomatic Correspondence, Vol. II. pp. 367–448.